Posts Tagged ‘Blue Note’

Sleeve Notes: Hub-Tones

4 August 2010

Reid Miles’ cover designs for Blue Note set the gold standard not only for jazz albums, but possibly for all of graphic design in the 20th century. Miles created his artwork using muted primary colors, unique, often hand-lettered typography, and the expressive black & white photography of Francis Wolff. Between 1955 and 1967, he created hundreds of LP covers for Blue Note, limning a style that is now universally recognized and often imitated. His artwork for Freddie Hubbard’s 1962 album Hub-Tones is typically brilliant – simple black bars mimic the valves of a trumpet, while the depressed valve contains an eye-catching, red-tinted photo of Hubbard blowing his brains out on the instrument. Miles’ covers for Blue Note consistently crossed the threshold between graphic design and fine art…

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

19 July 2010

When I was in high school, I had a regular column
in the sports section of the school newspaper (The
) called ‘Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down’. It was
easy to write and people liked it, so I recreate it here
for you now, as a quick guide of some of my likes
and dislikes in the world of music…

THUMBS UP: Disco (^)


THUMBS UP: The Flying Burrito Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: The Eagles (^)

THUMBS UP: The Beatles (^)



THUMBS DOWN: Joanna Newsom (^)

THUMBS UP: Iggy Pop (^)


THUMBS UP: Off The Wall

THUMBS DOWN: Thriller (^)

THUMBS UP: Jungle Brothers


THUMBS UP: Gregg Allman (^)


THUMBS UP: The Fillmore (^)


THUMBS UP: Bluegrass In The Park

THUMBS DOWN: Ticketmaster (^)

THUMBS UP: The Doors

THUMBS DOWN: Jim Morrison, poet (^)

THUMBS UP: ‘Fire On The Mountain’

THUMBS DOWN: ‘Dark Star’

THUMBS UP: Blue Note (^)


THUMBS UP: Cold Fact (^)


THUMBS UP: Keith Richards (^)


THUMBS UP: Canned Heat

THUMBS DOWN: Canned ham (^)

THUMBS UP: Lester Bangs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Richard Meltzer

THUMBS UP: Willie Nelson in concert

THUMBS DOWN: Shuggie Otis in concert (^)



THUMBS UP: Rick Rubin

THUMBS DOWN: Phil Spector (^)

THUMBS UP: Nigel Tufnel (^)

THUMBS DOWN: David Coverdale

THUMBS UP: Joy Division (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Throbbing Gristle

THUMBS UP: Saxophone

THUMBS DOWN: Bagpipes (^)

THUMBS UP: Ice Cube, rapper (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Ice Cube, actor

THUMBS UP: Johnny Rotten

THUMBS DOWN: Sid Vicious (^)

THUMBS UP: Freedom Rock (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Jam bands

THUMBS UP: Willy Wonka (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Christopher Cross

THUMBS UP: Roky Erickson’s comeback

THUMBS DOWN: Sly Stone’s comeback (^)

THUMBS UP: The Rat Pack (^)

THUMBS DOWN: The Brat Pack

THUMBS UP: Jimi Hendrix

THUMBS DOWN: Jimmy Buffett (^)

THUMBS UP: Dave Davies (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Dave Matthews

THUMBS UP: Beastie Boys (^)



THUMBS DOWN: Weird Al (^)

THUMBS UP: Pearl Jam’s first 3 albums (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Pearl Jam’s last 3 albums



THUMBS UP: New wave Bono

THUMBS DOWN: Statesman Bono (^)

Doubleshot Tuesday: Hub-Tones/The Stooges

6 January 2009

[Today: Goodbye to a pair of gifted, enigmatic musicians…]

Freddie Hubbard | Hub-Tones
The Stooges | The Stooges

Jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard passed away on Monday, December 29th at age 70. Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead earlier today at his home in Ann Arbor, MI. He was 60. Neither Hubbard nor Asheton was a household name, but each made music that ranks among my favorite.

Freddie Hubbard made his mark with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 60’s. At the same time, he was playing on sessions for artists as dynamic and wide-ranging as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Sonny Rollins. But Hubbard is best remembered for his Blue Note albums of the 60’s, including Hub-Tones, Ready For Freddie, and his debut, Open Sesame, which describes as “an impressive start to what would be a very interesting career.” Hubbard’s career was interesting because his best work never found an audience – but when he started covering pop tunes in the early 70’s he gained commercial success at the expense of his artistic integrity. He was also a notably unreliable live performer, often skipping performances or showing up in less than ideal playing shape. But his Blue Note albums reflect a powerful, accomplished trumpet player who helped define the style of hard bop.

Ron Asheton met Jim Osterberg (soon to be Iggy Stooge, then Iggy Pop) in the Ann Arbor High School Choir (!!!) before dropping out to become a rock and roller like his heroes The Beatles and The Stones. Asheton’s other heroes included JFK, Adolf Hitler, and The Three Stooges. The latter inspired the name of the band that would see him join forces with his brother Scott on drums, Iggy on vocals, and their Ann Arbor High classmate Dave Alexander on bass. Together they created a primordial, brutal brand of rock that would puzzle audiences of the day while laying the groundwork for punk rock. Iggy was (and is) a human blowtorch of a frontman, so he tended to deflect attention away from his band, but Asheton’s contribution to the Stooges seminal sound can’t be underestimated. Like the best music of the punks that would follow, his guitar licks are deceptively unique works of art that will continue to withstand the test of time.

Listen: You’re My Everything [Freddie Hubbard]

Listen: I Wanna Be Your Dog [The Stooges]

Buried Treasure: Blue’s Moods

30 November 2008

[Today: Blue Mitchell and the Hard Bop sound…]

Blue Mitchell | Blue's Moods

Bebop shook up Jazz in the mid-40’s in the same way that Punk disrupted Rock in the mid-70’s. In response to the staid, predictable sound of Swing – think Glenn Miller and/or Benny Goodman – Bop was an electric take on Jazz that featured lightning fast solos and opened new vistas of musical possibility. Behind the musical genius and larger-than-life figures of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Bop gained a foothold in the Jazz community, influencing a new generation of artists and forcing everyone else to sit up and take notice. Unlike Punk, Bop was a more technically complex strain of music, featuring double-time playing, asymmetrical phrasing, and intricate melodies. But like Punk, Bop was pooh-pooh’d by an older generation of musicians, even as it swept their brand of music into the dustbin of history.

This new direction was a shot in the arm for Jazz, but it wasn’t very danceable. In reaction to the Dizzying spectacle of Bebop, a faction of musicians created what (confusingly) became known as ‘Hard Bop’ – a more melodic form of Bop that incorporated elements of R&B, Blues, and Gospel. For example, most of the Blue Note albums of the late-50’s and 1960’s are Hard Bop. It was a style pioneered by Art Blakey and Horace Silver with their legendary group The Jazz Messengers, and when Blakey and Silver split in 1956, each started groups that apprenticed some of the most important Hard Bop players. These included trumpeter Richard ‘Blue’ Mitchell, who played with The Horace Silver Quintet from 1958 until 1964.

During that time Mitchell also recorded a number of excellent albums with his own ensembles, foremost among them Blue’s Moods from 1960. This is the only of Mitchell’s seven Riverside albums that features him as the exclusive horn, and it’s a doozy. Wynton Kelly (piano), Sam Jones (bass) and Roy Brooks (drums) are more than just accomplished sidemen – here they make music that would stand up on its own without Mitchell’s trumpet. But the moods alluded to in the album title are provided by Mitchell’s horn, whether he’s floating through a delicate melody (‘When I Fall In Love’), racing an offbeat tempo (‘Scrapple From The Apple’), or a little of both (‘I’ll Close My Eyes’). Blue’s Moods is an enjoyable, expansive listen, and a quintessential example of the Hard Bop sound.

Listen: I Wish I Knew

Listen: I’ll Close My Eyes

Buried Treasure: The Right Touch

7 August 2008

[Today: Duke Pearson turns it loose…]

What does jazz sound like? It’s a tough question to answer because jazz isn’t just one kind of music, it’s many. Ballads, fusion, bop, swing, and free jazz all live under one large umbrella, but have little in common musically besides their genre classification. Jazz is hot, it’s cool, it’s highly structured and brazenly improvisational. It’s trumpets and saxophones, drums and piano, cigarette smoke and scotch.

The Right Touch is an album of enough moods – light and breezy, soulful and funky, dapper and debonair – to encapsulate the best parts of the genre. Album-opener ‘Chili Peppers’ is an oft-sampled classic that deserves a spot on any ‘Best of Blue Note’ compilation. The song – so named because Pearson thought “it sounded hot” – features his piano front and center, propelling the tune forward. ‘Los Malos Hombres’ is an aggressive horn workout that sees Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax) dueling frenetically with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet). ‘Scrap Iron’ is slow and sultry, and as molten as the title implies.

Pearson played a large part in guiding the sound of Blue Note in the 60’s, but not because of his records. He was the head of A&R for the label from 1963 until 1971 – a period that saw a considerable number of classic Blue Note releases, including Hank Mobley’s The Turnaround, Dexter Gordon’s Our Man In Paris, and Joe Henderson’s Page One, to scrape but the tip of that musical iceberg.

Pearson’s job description meant that he was well-versed in the intricacies of creating an album. From scheduling a recording session to selecting session players to arranging and producing and beyond, he knew what elements made for great jazz, and he didn’t spare them on his own records. The Right Touch is every bit as good as the albums that Duke Pearson helped facilitate for other artists, and better than the vast majority of them.

Listen: Chili Peppers

Listen II: Scrap Iron

The P Speaks: Somethin’ Else

13 June 2008

Somethin Else - album

I’ve been surprised that dk hasn’t writen about this album in greater depth. It’s long been in his list of top Blue Note albums. And mine too. This recording captures some of the best work by two of the best soloists in jazz history – and recorded by one of the legendary behind-the-scenes figures in jazz, Rudy Van Gelder. (It’s no secret I have a little crush on Mr. Van Gelder.)

Named for the Miles Davis composition, this album is a conversation between Miles Davis on trumpet and Cannonball Adderley on alto sax. (The collaboration between Adderley and Davis continued in 1959 with Davis’s universally acclaimed Kind of Blue, by this same powerful group of musicians.)

But words don’t due this album justice: listen for yourself.

Autumn Leaves


Somethin’ Else

Cannonball Adderley

Cannonball Adderley (alto sax)
Miles Davis (tenor sax)
Hank Jones (piano)
Sam Jones (bass)
Art Blakey (drums)

1. Autumn Leaves
2. Love For Sale 
3. Somethin’ Else
4. One For Daddy-O 
5. Dancing In The Dark
6. Bangoon – (bonus track)

Original Release Date: March 9, 1958

A Dozen Great Blue Note Albums

12 August 2007

Blue Note Records featured some of the most iconic, stylish, and memorable record sleeves of all-time. Art Director Reid Miles and photographer Francis Wolff Jr created artwork that raised the bar on album cover design and helped repackage Jazz for a new generation of listeners. While much of the music recorded on Blue Note is quite good, it often isn’t quite as great as the wrapper it comes in. Here, however, are 12 Blue Note albums that are fit to be judged by their covers:

Somethin Else - album
Cannonball Adderley * Somethin’ Else

dk says: Adderley’s finest hour includes Miles Davis’ only career appearance as a side man. says: “This is a group that could take on a Barry Manilow number and turn it into a jazz masterpiece.”

Blue Train - album
John Coltrane * Blue Train

dk says: Forget the squonking Coltrane you think you know – his only album for Blue Note is a fully melodic piece of work that will leave you tapping your toes. says: “Without reservation, Blue Train can easily be considered in and among the most important and influential entries not only of John Coltrane’s career, but of the entire genre of jazz music as well.”

Caddy For Daddy - album
Hank Mobley * A Caddy For Daddy

dk says: Yet another in a long line of great albums from the underappreciated Mobley, A Caddy For Daddy features an all-star ensemble that included Lee Morgan on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, and Billy Higgins on drums. says: “A distinctive but not dominant soloist, Mobley was also a very talented writer whose compositions avoided the predictable, yet could often be quite melodic and soulful…”

Sidewinder - album
Lee Morgan * The Sidewinder

dk says: This album was the biggest hit of Morgan’s short career, and the title track – a jazz/funk hybrid of the highest order – might be the single most recognizable number in the Blue Note archives. says: “The group works together seamlessly to create an album that crackles with energy while maintaining a stylish flow.”

Grant Green - album
Grant Green * Idle Moments

dk says: One of the few Jazz guitarists who doesn’t sound like he’s making music for an elevator, Green and his band seductively swing and sway through a particularly solid set. says: “This languid, seductive gem may well be Grant Green’s greatest moment on record.”

Unity - album
Larry Young * Unity

dk says: Young later played on Bitches Brew, and the way his organ dances around these exploded melodies makes it perfectly clear that he was eminently qualified for that gig. says: “On his sophomore date as a leader, jazz organist Larry Young began to display some of the angular drive that made him a natural for the jazz-rock explosion to come barely four years later.”

Cool Struttin' - album
Sonny Clark * Cool Struttin’

dk says: A personal favorite of the P, this 1958 classic features a killer band, and may be the best of Clark’s too-short life. says: “This set deserves its reputation for its soul appeal alone.”

JJJ - album
JJ Johnson * The Eminent JJJ – Vol 1

dk says: Johnson played his slide trombone with the mentality of a trumpet or sax player, attacking his material with vigor and imagination. The two volumes of The Eminent JJJ are perhaps the finest releases in the history of the label. says: “The six titles (plus three alternates) are highlighted by ‘It Could Happen to You,’ ‘Turnpike’ and a classic rendition of ‘Get Happy.'”

Blakey - album
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers * A Night In Tunisia

dk says: Not to be confused with the 1957 set of nearly the same name, this 1960 album featured Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Timmons in one of the strongest versions of Blakey’s ever-rotating Jazz Messengers. says: “The lengthy title track on this CD easily overshadows the rest of the program for it is one of the most exciting versions ever recorded of Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘A Night in Tunisia.'”

Boss Horn - album
Blue Mitchell * Boss Horn

dk says: Mitchell wasn’t as recognized as Blue Note trumpeters like Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, or even Kenny Dorham, but his straight-ahead style has helped his sound age just as well as – if not better than – his more celebrated peers. says: “Trumpeter Blue Mitchell delivers a solid hard bop date with his 1966 Blue Note release Boss Horn.”

Doin' Allright - album
Dexter Gordon * Doin’ Allright

dk says: Gordon – one of the most accomplished tenor saxophonists of all-time – played with a warm tone that stirs the blood. On Doin’ Allright, he proves that a tender embrace holds as much power as a tropical storm. says: “The title of this Blue Note set, Doin’ Allright, fit perfectly at the time, for tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon was making the first of three successful comebacks.”

Memorial Album - album
Clifford Brown * Memorial Album

dk says: Brown’s death by car accident at age 25 is one of the most tragic events in the history of Jazz. This compilation of sides he recorded for Blue Note preserves his legacy in amber, and will leave you wondering what might have been. says: “Casual listeners would be better off starting out with some of Brown’s recordings with Max Roach; nonetheless, seasoned fans will find that this CD is a treasure chest.”